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The New York School Exhibition Curated by Amy Myoung april 2014

Featuring Alvin Lustig Bradbury Thompson Paul Rand Saul Bass


The term “New York School” usually refers to an informal group of American poets, painters, dancers, and musicians in the 1950s and 60s in New York City. As a graphic design movement, however, the term “New York School” is considered same as American modernist design. During 1940s, many talented European artists immigrated to the United States because they were seeking to escape from political climate of totalitarianism and Fascism. As a result, New York City became a cultural center of the world in the middle of twentieth century just like Paris was in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As many talented artists started their new life in New York City, the New York School was born from their excitement about European Modernism and it became a dominant force in the field of graphic design during the middle of twentieth century. Though American modern design was first heavily inspired by European modern art, American designers quickly developed their own approach to modernist design. While European design focused more on structure and being more theoretical, American design was more opinionated and informal in its approach when it came to dealing with organizing space. As society became highly competitive, well-developed technique and originality of concept were much valued by people. So, designers sought to satisfy clients technically while expressing their own personal views and styles. Most of designers had their emphasis on the expression of ideas and direct presentation of information. So lots of works from the New York School designers are tend to be literal and bold rather than vague and conceptual. Although American modernist design started its roots off of European designs, their own approach started to grain international prominence in the 1950s and continued as a dominant force in the field of graphic design.

Alvin Lustig was also an influential American designer during the 1940s. He was a successful book designer, graphic designer and typeface designer who has been honored by the AIGA for his significant contributions to American design. He was born in 1915 in Denver, Colorado. He studied design at Los Angeles City College, Art Center and independently with Frank Lloyed Wright who is an American architect. He began his career as a book jacket designer in Los Angeles, then he later moved to New York and became the Director of Visual Research for Look Magazine. Unlike traditional trend of book design, which was to summarize the story of book into one image, Lustig’s approach to book design was different. He first read the book to get a sense of the author’s direction and then translated those ideas into his own architectural graphic style. He was best known for the combination of technology and modernistic images with creativity in his design works. His works as well as his intellectual approach to problem-solving were almost reminiscent of the Bauhaus and revolutionary at the time.

Menasco “Power in Motion”, 1942

Iodine for Russia, 1943

Knoll ad in A&AM, Feb 1945

Knoll ad in A&AM, May 1945

Knoll ad in A&AM, Jun 1945

Composing Room, “I Want a Thin Gothic”, 1949



Lightolier 1952

American Crayon 1953

Industrial Design 1954

Girl Scouts of America 1953-55

The Law of Civilization 1954

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 1955


Black Mountain College 1946


Kittell Silencer 1943

Holiday Card for the Torndike, 1938

Germany France Finland Stamp Catalog, 1939

Christmas Card Design 1940

Philately in Europe 1939

23rd Commencement 1940

Art Teachers’ Association of LA 1941

Bradbury Thompson emerged as one of the most influential graphic designers of postwar America. His background experience with working at printing firms provided him a thorough knowledge of every aspect of printing and typesetting. After he moved to New York, he worked as art director at the Rogers-Kellogg-Stillson printing firm and then at Mademoiselle Magazine. When Thompson emerged in the modernist design scene, his avant-garde approach to design captured the attention of other designers. He was always on the cutting edge of design. He was best known for his bold use of type and his way of collaborating different artistic styles into a cohesive whole. Many of his works became iconic symbol in American graphic design history and Thompson was recognized by every major American design organization later in his career.


Liberty Bell Spread 1953

Rock’n’roll Spread 1958

Halftone Separations Spread 1951

M Stands for Men, 1953

Americana Spread, 1952 Alphabetum Romanum Colophon, 1953

More than any other American designer, Paul Rand first started to develop the American approach to modern design. He had a first experience with design at a very young age, working on banners for his father’s grocery store as well as for school events. Rand started his design career as a part-time position creating graphic stock images for various newspaper and magazine publishers. Then he worked as a promotional and editorial designer for the magazines like Apparel Arts, Eqsuire, Ken, Coronet, and Glass Packer. And by the age of 23, he was already the art director of Esquire and Apparel Arts magazines. Inspired by the works of Klee, Kandinsky, and other cubist artists, Rand tend to use freely invented shapes as a visual communication tool both symbolically and expressively. So many of his work featured the “unexpected” and playful, dynamic graphics. He was especially fond of collage and montage as a tool to bring concepts, images, and textures into a cohesive unity. Rand was best known for his corporate logo designs, including the logos for IBM, Unite Parcel Service, American Broadcasting Company, Yale University, and many others. Some of the companies still use his logos to this day. Rand always sought to translate concepts into visual communications by using ordinary signs and symbols. He thought that successfully altered and composed signs and symbols will always lead to effective communication with the audience.



Flair Magazine

Stafford Robes

Rainfair Storm Coats


BOOKS Sparkle and Spin 1957

Leave Me Alone 1957

AIGA Graphic Design USA: 3 1982

AIGA Annual 1968

Esquire Magazine 1938

UPS 1961

IBM 1956

ABC 1962

Ford Motor Co. 1966, not used

IBM, 8-bar 1972

Tipton Lakes 1980

Yale University Press, 1985

Listen! Listen! 1970

Failure by Design 1993


Saul Bass was one of the most successful and prominent American graphic designer during this period. He was not only a graphic designer, but also was an Academy Award winning filmmaker best known for his film title and poster designs. He managed to find some opportunities as a freelance graphic artist, but his success later came as he moved to California and began his time in Hollywood. His works were first acknowledged by mass when he was commissioned to design the titling sequences for “Carmen Jones” by Otto Preminger. Bass’ remarkable ability to express concepts into simple constructed pictographic images immediately captured audiences’ heart. Bass’s one of the greatest inspiration was Paul Rand and his use of shape and asymmetrical balance during the 1940s. Unlike Rand, however, who carefully arranged compositions according to its shape, color, and texture, Bass reduced his design as much as he can to create a single dominant graphic component. Most of his works feature graphic elements that are irregular in forms that almost look like cutout of paper and rough and freely dabbed brushstrokes. These graphic elements were often combined with decorative letterforms and typography or handwriting.

Man with the Golden Arm, 1955

Anatomy of a Murder, 1959

Film Trade Ad ‘On The Mark’, Unknown

One Two Three, Unknown

Film Poster ‘Exodus’, 1961

Philp B. Meggs, Alston W. Purvis, Meggs’ History of Graphic Design, 5th ed. Steven Heller, Georgette Ballance, Graphic Design History. Alston W Purvis, Martijn F Le Coultre, Graphic Design 20th Century. The Paul Rand Archive, American Institute of Graphic Arts Official Website, Artstor Digital Library, Rochester Institute of Technology Graphic Design Archive Online, The Alvin Lustig Archive, The Saul Bass Poster Archive, Design Is History,


The New York School Brochure Design Exhibition Curated by Amy Myoung 2014

Exhibition Catalog Project  

To design a 16 page catalog for an imaginary exhibit on graphic design history, The New York School.

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